Thursday, 27 May 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Direct Provision System
85. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the immediate steps he is taking to address the child safeguarding concerns raised in the Ombudsman for Children report Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision. [28650/21]
The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department has embarked upon a series of actions, planned for the short to medium term which will build upon existing work to ensure the recommendations of the OCO will be implemented as quickly as possible.
The key priority will be to move all remaining children and families still residing in congregated hotel style living, to own door or independent living accommodation. As such, a new full public procurement will take place in 2021 with the aim of securing the additional spaces required to end the use of emergency accommodation by IPAS.
The procurement will have a specific focus on the provision of child friendly accommodation that will allow parents and children to enjoy a normal private family life.
A new Resident Welfare Team has been established within IPAS to manage the cases of individual families and single residents, identified as having special reception needs, and to ensure that those needs continue to be identified and addressed in the most appropriate way possible. The Resident Welfare Team is a multi-disciplinary team with experts from the fields of education, health and childcare seconded.
IPAS is also committed to working with Tusla during 2021 to develop interagency protocols and operating procedures that will support the sharing of case information between Tusla and IPAS and to track and monitor referrals and cases from beginning to end.
All existing centres and all new centres are required to develop a child safeguarding statement. IPAS will work with Tusla to ensure that compliance with child safeguarding statements and Children First legislation is audited this year. IPAS will be ensuring that child safeguarding statements are translated and made available to all residents. Additional child safety training will also be rolled out to all centre managers as COVID restrictions allow.
A new dedicated Customer Services Team has also been established in IPAS. This team will be taking a more proactive approach to dealing with residents' issues and, as well as strengthening the existing resident complaints system. It will actively engage with residents through customer feedback mechanisms and focus groups in the months ahead.